What is a SLAP Tear?

A SLAP tear (superior labrum anterior to posterior) is a type of labral tear of the shoulder joint. Two joints in the body have what is called a labrum. The shoulder is one of these joints. The shoulder (glenohumeral joint) is a ball and socket joint. The shoulder blade bone (scapula) extends up to the top of the shoulder ending in what is known as the glenoid cavity, or the socket. At the top end of the upper arm bone, the humerus, is the humeral head which is shaped like a ball. The humeral head fits nicely into the glenoid cavity socket.

The glenoid cavity serves as the part of the shoulder that the humeral head fits into. In order to help the head of the humerus fit into the socket even better, the glenoid cavity has a labrum around its edges in order to make this socket deeper. The labrum is a soft ring of tissue that goes around the edge of the socket, in effect deepening the socket. The head of the humerus moves more easily with protection from the labrum. For the shoulder, tears of the labrum can lead to chronic aches and pain and impaired function. There are multiple types of a labral tear in the shoulder.

A SLAP tear occurs when there is damage to the upper part of the labrum which part of the site of attachment for the biceps brachii muscle. There are four different types of SLAP tears.

● Type I: fraying of the top of the labrum, but still attached, mostly commonly seen in older individuals as a result of normal wear and tear
● Type II: most common form of SLAP tear, labrum and the biceps tendon that attaches to it are completely torn from glenoid cavity
● Type III: known as a ’bucket handle tear’ where the labrum is torn but the biceps tendon remains intact
● Type IV: another bucket handle tear with involvement of the biceps tendon

What Causes SLAP Tears?

Causes of a SLAP tear include:

● Chronic repetitive motions or injury commonly seen in athletes who perform a lot of overhead, throwing motions
● Acute trauma such as a motor vehicle accident or a direct blow to the shoulder
● Ageing: normal wear and tear leading to degeneration of the labrum
● Forceful pulling on arm and dislocation of shoulder

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Slap Tear Symptoms

Symptoms of a SLAP tear include:

● Pain when moving the arm in certain motions, especially attempting list something overhead
● Reduced range of motion of the shoulder joint
● Sensations of clicking, catching, or locking when moving the arm
● Felling of instability of the shoulder

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How to Repair a SLAP Tear | SLAP Tear Treatment

Treatment for a SLAP tear will be conservative measures first unless the tear is severe enough and other structures are involved. Conservative measures recommended will consist of:

● A course of over the counter anti-inflammatory and pain killing drugs
● Discontinuation of any known activity that may have contributed to this tear
● Physical therapy in order to strengthen the surrounding musculature

If these measures fail to reduce pain and improve function, especially in the case of an athlete who would like to return to his sport, surgery will be indicated.
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